Big news early in December 2018 was a Microsoft announcement that it was throwing in the towel with regard to its Edge web browser and capitulating to the monolithic Google bulldozer. From now on Microsoft Edge will be based on Google's Chromium open-source engine, meaning that the ONLY independent web browser available for the Windows platform will be Mozilla Firefox (the Safari browser is also independent but it only runs on Apple Macintosh machines). Microsoft has expended enormous effort and expense over the past few years in developing Edge (and simultaneously ceasing support for the old and creaking Internet Explorer) but it never became popular - in fact, Internet Explorer still has more browser market share than Edge! Incredible as this may seem, about 11% of worldwide internet access is via Internet Explorer, with Edge accounting for a paltry 4%. Now Microsoft are throwing away their proprietary EdgeHTML rendering engine and replacing it with Chromium, Google's all-pervasive open source offering.
This is very, VERY bad news ... I was never an Edge fan, but at least it was independent of Google's monopoly. Google is fast becoming the big bad bully of the IT world (just as IBM once were and then Microsoft after them) and we should not allow that to happen. The industry desperately needs competition from independents like Mozilla (developers of Firefox), but unfortunately the vast majority of sheep-like users out there simply follow the trend with the result that Firefox's market share keeps dwindling - just over 8% last time I looked, while Google Chrome is sitting pretty at well over 60%. And this despite Firefox being way, way better than Chrome (I know, I test applications on both of them).
Sound familiar? Anybody remember Netscape Navigator and the "browser wars" of the early 2000's? And if you think that this development is unimportant and irrelevant, let me quote from Chris Beard, CEO of Mozilla Corporation, in his blog post titled "Goodbye, EdgeHTML" from 6 December 2018:
... Microsoft's decision gives Google more ability to single-handedly decide what possibilities are available to each one of us. Google is so close to almost complete control of the infrastructure of our online lives that it may not be profitable for Microsoft to continue to fight this. The interests of Microsoft's shareholders may well be served by giving up on the freedom and choice that the internet once offered us. Google is a fierce competitor with highly talented employees and a monopolistic hold on unique assets. Google's dominance across search, advertising, smartphones, and data capture creates a vastly tilted playing field that works against the rest of us.
From a social, civic and individual empowerment perspective ceding control of fundamental online infrastructure to a single company is terrible. This is why Mozilla exists. We compete with Google not because it's a good business opportunity. We compete with Google because the health of the internet and online life depend on competition and choice. They depend on consumers being able to decide we want something better and to take action.
Will Microsoft's decision make it harder for Firefox to prosper? It could. Making Google more powerful is risky on many fronts. And a big part of the answer depends on what the web developers and businesses who create services and websites do. If one product like Chromium has enough market share, then it becomes easier for web developers and businesses to decide not to worry if their services and sites work with anything other than Chromium. That's what happened when Microsoft had a monopoly on browsers in the early 2000's before Firefox was released. And it could happen again.
So if you are reading this and care about the state of the IT industry, please start using (or continue to use) Firefox! Do NOT let Google take over entirely ... when that happens, everybody loses. Firefox is completely free and runs on Windows, Mac or Linux as well as most mobile phone operating systems. You can download a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Firefox, in almost any language you can think of, from www.mozilla.org.